Monday, March 2, 1998
Remember that pushy brat in school who used to cut in line all the time?
What would a kid with such proclivities have grown up to be? One would hardly imagine the answer to be: a Superior Court judge.
We don't know if Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge James Kaddo cut in line when he was a youngster, but we do know he did it a few weeks ago when he entered a Superior Court race for an open seat. Kaddo last year became a "Cerrell candidate," that is, he secured representation by the political consulting firm of Cerrell Associates, Inc., which specializes in handling judicial campaign. Owing to the expertise of that firm, representation by it is a significant factor in judicial elections. Kaddo would not have gained that representation had he not agreed to conditions. The firm already had a candidate in number one position: Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge John Harris, who started campaigning in 1996. It was understood that if there were only one open seat, Harris would be the Cerrell candidate for that seat. In number two position was Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Abe Khan, who had been running nearly as long as Harris. He would run for the second open seat.
Kaddo secured the third position. Other would-be candidates came to be in line behind Kaddo.
As it turned out, there were two sure open seats this year: those being vacated by Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Ricardo Torres and Ernest George Williams.
Harris declared his candidacy for Torres' seat.
Kaddo declared his candidacy for Williams' seat.
...Wait a minute! Khan was next in line.
Kaddo had joined a team, then refused to play by team rules. In declaring his candidacy for the second open seat, the judge displayed the mentality and ethics of a schoolyard brat in need of a spanking.
A third open seat developed, that of Judge Robert Roberson. Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Alban I. Niles, a former presiding judge of his court, immediately staked it out. He was not a Cerrell candidate.
And there were no more open seats.
Where did that leave Khan? Dismissing any thought of opposing Harris, he had three options:
•He could have run against Kaddo, in which event Cerrell would have abided by his overriding commitment to Khan, his number two candidate. That would have meant challenging a member of the same team.
•He could have taken on Niles. That would have meant opposing a judge who had aspired to membership on the Superior Court longer than himself. Niles ran once before, in 1986, losing to a less-worthy candidate, Leon Kaplan, who shovelled huge sums into the campaign. Also, Niles is a well-regarded jurist who would have been a formidable opponent.
•He could have abandoned his plans to run, rendering the money and energy he had put into a campaign of more than a year's duration wasted.
At this point, of course, Kaddo, had he an ounce of integrity, would have stepped aside from the race he had barged into and either taken on Niles, himself, or given up on running. Khan could then have stepped in.
But Kaddo did not do what any honorable person would have done. He glibly pointed out that Khan was younger than he — Kaddo is 64 and Khan is 48 — and would have other chances. That is hardly an excuse for cheating.
Khan opted to declare his candidacy for the seat which Niles was seeking. He had second thoughts about running against a colleague, and announced Thursday he would not file his nominating papers.
Given that a successful write-in campaign against Niles is hardly a realistic prospect, that means Niles will be elected to the Superior Court. We congratulate him on attaining a post which should long ago have been his.
Kaddo does have an opponent: Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer Andrew Zucker. Zucker has handled celebrated cases and represented major clients, but whatever qualifications he has hardly matter. Kaddo will be elected. His ballot designation as a judge would assure him of victory over a lawyer even if he did not have the added advantage of Cerrell.
He has virtually a clear field. Standing in that field should be Khan.
Had Kaddo bolted from the Cerrell camp and run against Khan, that would have been his prerogative. He didn't do that. He wound up running for the number two spot and keeping Cerrell. In essence, he stepped into Khan's shoes after stealing the shoes.
We decry the near-certain election to the Superior Court of a candidate so clearly lacking in integrity. There are those who would dismiss his conduct with the observation, "That's politics." Judges should not be political animals, or political predators. A contrary notion demeans the judicial office.
Khan has previously been the victim of unfair campaign tactics. In 1992 he was defeated at the polls as a judge of the Citrus Municipal Court by an unqualified lawyer named Patrick Murphy whose attacks on Khan were plainly dishonest.
Khan gained election to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1994 without opposition. Intelligent, reasonable, and even-tempered, he is respected by lawyers and colleagues. Khan is eminently fit for Superior Court service.
We urge two things. The first is that responsible persons who have endorsed Kaddo show the self-respect to withdraw their endorsements in light of his unprincipled campaign conduct. The second is that Gov. Pete Wilson confer upon Khan a well-deserved Superior Court judgeship.
Our premise is a simple one. Those who are addressed as "Your Honor" should be those possessed of honor. If they lack that quality, they are unfit to pass judgment on others.
What our courts need is more judicial officers of the likes of Khan and fewer of the ilk of Kaddo.
Copyright Metropolitan News Company, 1998